Congressional Dems Call On the IRS to Investigate the NRA

The lawmakers are challenging the gun rights group’s tax status.

Michael Conroy/AP

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Last month, New York Attorney General Letitia James filed a groundbreaking lawsuit against the National Rifle Association, charging the nation’s oldest gun rights group with decades of illegal financial dealings and misconduct and seeking to dissolve the organization. But that might not be the end of the NRA’s legal woes. Now, a coalition of Democratic members of the House Ways and Means Committee and Oversight Committee are calling on the Internal Revenue Service to open an investigation into the NRA’s federal tax-exempt status. 

On Tuesday, Reps. Brad Schneider (D-Ill.) and Jimmy Gomez (D-Calif.) sent the IRS a letter signed by 33 House Democrats outlining the findings of the James’ investigation into the NRA. The letter also discusses the DC attorney general’s concurrent probe into the group, as well as Schneider’s own investigation. The letter outlines an alleged “pattern of egregious self-dealing” by high-ranking NRA officials.

James’ lawsuit takes aim at four current and former members of the NRA’s leadership team, including the group’s longtime executive vice president, Wayne LaPierre, and details dozens of examples of LaPierre and other executives allegedly using millions of dollars of NRA funds for exorbitant personal purposes, like family vacations, expensive clothes, and private jet travel for personal trips. Schneider’s investigation, which was released in February, outlines the NRA’s extensive self-dealing and various conflicts of interest. It notes that the salary of the NRA’s former board president, Oliver North, was paid by the group’s top vendor, Ackerman McQueen, apparently in order to skirt the group’s own nonprofit bylaws that prohibit it from paying its board president. 

“In light of this new information, we respectfully ask that you review whether the recent allegations against the NRA and NRA Foundation warrant reconsideration of the organizations’ federal tax-exempt status,” the letter reads. “No organization that wantonly and repeatedly abuses these rules in order to advance and enrich the financial interests of its leaders should be allowed to enjoy privileged tax-exempt status.”

An IRS investigation of the NRA has long been desired by congressional Democrats. In October 2019, a group of Democratic senators led by Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (N.Y.) and Ron Wyden (Ore.) sent a similar letter to the IRS, citing the findings of a Senate investigation into the NRA’s interactions with Russian agent Maria Butina. But the IRS has, so far, remained silent on the accusations against the NRA and whether it would open up an investigation into the group’s tax-exempt status. When I brought the subject up last year with two tax attorneys who specialize in nonprofit tax law, neither seemed too optimistic about an IRS investigation. “Immediate is not a term that the IRS really follows very well,” Matthew Journy, one of the lawyers I spoke to, told me at the time. 

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